Psychological Movies Since Freud + 'The Big Country': Academy Screenings

by Andre Soares

Psychological movies: Movies on the Mind since Sigmund Freud

Psychological movies Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde Fredric March Miriam Hopkins“I don't believe it's possible to graphically represent the abstract nature of our thinking in a respectable form,” said Sigmund Freud. Whether Freud was right or wrong is debatable, though his remark hasn't stopped filmmakers the world over from trying to portray on screen the inner workings of the human mind.

Clips from many of those films dealing with dreams, phobias, split personalities, out-of-control egos, and countless other pathologies, psychoses, and neuroses will be shown at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' new interactive multimedia exhibition, “Movies on the Mind: Psychology and Film since Sigmund Freud,” which opens on Friday, June 15, in the Academy's Fourth Floor Gallery in Beverly Hills. Admission is free.

Organized by the Deutsche Kinemathek and sponsored by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes in celebration of Freud's 150th birthday (2006), the exhibition uses posters, photographs, sets, and film clips to illustrate the history of motion pictures as seen from a psychiatrist's chair.

The clips include sequences from Jean Cocteau's Orphée / Orpheus, in which the divide between reality and imagination is frighteningly tenuous; Ingmar Bergman's Persona, which has nurse Bibi Andersson and patient Liv Ullmann becoming – quite literally – one; Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie and Spellbound, the latter featuring dream sequences created by none other than Salvador Dali; and, inevitably, Woody Allen's Annie Hall and the “Oedipus Wrecks” episode from New York Stories.

Also featured will be horror films in which the monster is found in the inner recesses of the human brain, including Hitchcock's Psycho, Rouben Mamoulian's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (right), and Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs, in addition to lighter psycho-fare such as Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich and Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Here's hoping that the exhibition will also include Gondry's The Science of Sleep, about dreams, what else?; Robert Wiene's epoch-making Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari / The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; Anatole Litvak's The Snake Pit, quite possibly the first Hollywood film to seriously examine the treatment of mental patients; Ralph Nelson's Charly, about a retarded man (Cliff Robertson) who becomes a genius for a little while; Bernardo Bertolucci's Il Conformista / The Conformist and Last Tango in Paris, both dealing with sex, psychosis, and death; Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, offering more sex, psychosis, and death, plus a healthy dose of violence… The list goes on an on.

Ah, and of course, John Huston's Freud, with a conflicted Montgomery Clift in the title role.

The presentation at the Academy, the exhibition's only American stop during its world tour, was made possible through the support of the Goethe Institut-Los Angeles.

“Movies on the Mind” will be on display through Sunday, September 16. The Academy's galleries, located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, are open Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, noon to 6 p.m. The Academy will be closed on Wednesday, July 4 (Independence Day) as well as during the Labor Day holiday weekend – Saturday, September 1 through Monday, September 3. For more information call (310) 247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org/events.

“Kino im Kopf” graphic by Jan Drehmel

'The Big Country' screening

A newly struck print from the restoration of William Wyler's 1958 widescreen Western epic The Big Country will be premiered at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills on Friday, June 22, at 7:30 p.m.

Filmed in Technirama (a widescreen alternative to CinemaScope), The Big Country stars that most underrated of actors, Gregory Peck, as a newly retired sea captain who tries to plant roots in the old American West. He sets out to the endless country to marry his fiancée (Carroll Baker), the daughter of a wealthy landowner (Charles Bickford), but ends up embroiled in a feud over land and watering rights for cattle.

This thinking person's Western was based on Donald Hamilton's novel, which was adapted by Jessamyn West and Robert Wyler (brother of the director). Final screenplay credits went to Wyler, James R. Webb, and Sy Bartlett.

Also in the cast is that most underused of actresses, Jean Simmons, in addition to Charlton Heston (despite Moses, billed after Peck, Simmons, and Baker), Burl Ives, and Chuck Connors. If memory doesn't fail me, the best performance is given by Charles Bickford, while the worst one comes courtesy of Charlton Heston, whose villain is as ineffectual as his heroes.

(Exception to this rule: Heston's Mexican narcotics officer in Touch of Evil. Perhaps it was the bizarre make-up; perhaps it was Orson Welles' direction; perhaps biker from hell Mercedes McCambridge threatened to beat him up if he didn't get his acting straight. Whatever it was, for once Heston delivered a believable performance as a determined Mexican police officer from outer space out to get some real meanies. Better than that, only Katharine Hepburn's Chinese peasant from outer galaxy fighting for freedom in Dragon Seed. And I'm not being facetious. They were good – even if I'm the only person this side of Andromeda to think so.)

Burl Ives, until then better known for his singing, earned a best supporting actor Academy Award his performance as poor but tough rancher Rufus Hannassey – though surely the award was also supposed to include two of Ives' other 1958 performances, Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Ephraim Cabot in Desire Under the Elms. The film also received a nomination for Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Jerome Moross).

The new print was restored by the Academy Film Archive with support from the Film Foundation.

Tickets to The Big Country are $5 for the general public and may be purchased online at www.oscars.org/events. There are no minimum order requirements and no transaction or processing fees. Tickets are available online until noon PST on the day of the event.

Tickets may also be purchased by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours, or depending on availability, on the night of the screening when doors open at 6:30 p.m.

The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Seats are unreserved. Complimentary parking is provided in the garages located at 8920 and 9025 Wilshire Boulevard. For additional information, call (310) 247-3600.

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1 comment

Isaac -

How Mr Peck could be considered “underrated” as an actor is beyond me. He was a fine figure of a man with wonderful style and poise, he had a fine voice and the camera loved every angle and every facet of his considerably hansom head, but as an actor he had an extremely limited compass, in fact, I can only identify one performance, which he recreated in at least a dozen films in which he starred.

Burl Ives gave the best performance in Big Country by a mile, and Ms Simmons was surely at least in the running for the least effective. Yes, Mr Heston was a poser fond of burning up time and emotional energy, and a man far too aware of his own facial features. Big country is a fine film for all that.

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